Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On IT Consulting's Future

I'm a good Information Technology consultant and I make a good living at it. The two are not necessarily related. There are tens of thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of IT consultants who get paid hundreds of dollars an hour in spite of a remarkable lack of skills, training and talent. Why does this happen? Because many of the world's executives don't know anything about computers. They don't know the potential return on investment they could get from installing the new wiz bang thing. They don't know how to hire people to implement it if they do decide it's worth the money. Most egregiously, they don't know how much the equipment and software that they do have should cost them each year. This is dangerous for the executives to which I refer, so they hire consultants. They hire consultants with the same inability to tell how many they might need or how long their task should take. In IT consulting, it's what we call job security.

The problem is that the information age that IT helps foster, doesn't appear to be giving CIOs what they need. This will change. Standardization, outsourcing, ITIL, virtualization, commoditization of Storage and most of all CIOs and CEOs who were raised with computers will change it. In 20 years there will be 10% as many IT consultants.

Looking for a reference case, think of how long it took us from the time we had planes that could support a FedEx or UPS model until we had overnight shipping. Once a game changing technology (and for now I will lump the advances of Information Technology from say 1990 to 2002 as one game changing technology*) has widespread adoption, as IT now does, it takes years for the follow on advances to drive maximum value and simplicity out of that technology.

I'm not sure why exactly I wrote this post, this is just an observation that keeps occuring to me. I can say it's one of the reasons I'm persuing my MBA. While IT is maturing, it's going to be willing to pay for consultants (and executives, depending on what I end up doing in the long run) who understand not only the technology but its implications on business. I intend to be one of those consultants or executives.

*I could discuss why I am, for this discussion, lumping them as one technology and I might in another post.


June said...

Very insightful post thanks for this.

Burgher Jon said...

Thank you for the kind comment June. The post is a little bit of a departure from the "just Pittsburgh" discussions I typically host here. However, as my career is evolving I think the blog may need to as well.

Anonymous said...


Not to rain on your parade, as you are a good consultant, but someone from India or China can do what you plan on doing. They might only be able to do it 75% as well as you, but they'll do it at half the cost.

And, don't think that all of your work will require the face time of an on-site consultant. Read this article from The Economist. Cisco has already created the next game changing technology to make consulting competition from India and China much tougher on those of us in the US.

Good luck on your MBA, but take it from me, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

- Just sign me as "Someone you worked with at Big Blue and who was RA'd a few months back because my job is going to India."

Burgher Jon said...

I am sorry to hear you were RA'd (Resource Action or laid off / asked to change positions, for readers not familiar with the term). Big blue was equally bad at recognizing good work (why I left) and getting rid of the right people (why they've RA'd so many good people). Did you work with me personally at Big Blue? My email is and I'm on linkedin if you want to get caught up.

I've been in a telepresence room, and they are pretty exciting. I'm not sure I buy that they will speed up the rate of outsourcing though. Language, time zone, and culture barriers still exist with or without nifty video cameras.

I have more to say about outsourcing, but I want to save it for another post. Stay tuned.